Last Updated: September 1, 2021

Differences Between Custom Oral Appliances and Snoring Mouthguards

Both custom oral appliances and snoring mouth guards are effective solutions to stop snoring, but is there really a noticeable difference between these two types of devices?

Both custom oral appliances and snoring mouthguards treat snoring by extending the lower jaw slightly forward to open the airway. As the jaw moves forward, the airway expands to prevent vibrations of the tissues in the throat. This results in less turbulence and less snoring.

Custom Oral Appliances

Custom oral appliances are often prescribed by dentists and sleep physicians for the treatment of sleep apnea. In the United States, custom oral appliances are an alternative to CPAP therapy. However, in many parts of the world, especially in Scandinavian countries, oral appliances are the first line of treatment.

A custom oral appliance is first prepared by taking an impression of the teeth using a soft material or a digital scanner. The mold or digital file is then sent to a dental lab to manufacture the appliance. The device is mailed to the dentist or physician, who then inspects the device and gives it to the patient.

Some of these adjustable devices require a tool to change the adjustment setting. By changing the adjustment, the mandibular part of the mouthpiece can move forward or backward. This allows the user to select a setting based on efficacy and comfort. Generally, the more forward the lower jaw is, the less comfortable, but more effective it is.

Due to the time and resources required to manufacture a personalized device, custom oral appliances are expensive.

Snoring Mouthguards

Snoring mouthguards are commonly recognized in the medical community as ‘prefabricated oral appliances’ and often resemble a sports mouthguard. Over the past few years, several snoring mouthguards have introduced some form of adjustability which is found in more expensive custom oral appliances.

The two most distinctive features of snoring mouthguards are the materials that make up the device and how the process for which the custom impression is made. Most of these devices are made of a soft copolymer material which allows the user to take a custom impression of his or her teeth in the device. This design prevents teeth movement during sleep.

The mold is personalized to the user’s mouth and is designed specifically for that user. In many instances, users repeat the boil and bite process again if the impression is not correct.

Cheaper snoring mouthguards are normally made of cheaper industrialized plastic, which contains BPA and latex materials. Higher end snoring mouthpieces are made of medical grade resin and latex-free materials to prevent allergic reactions and other adverse events.

Although some snoring mouth guards also have an FDA indication for treatment of mild obstructive sleep apnea, most of these devices are required by law to have a physician’s prescription.

It is important to note that bruxism (grinding and clenching of the teeth) may wear down the device faster and decrease the lifespan of the device.

Custom Oral Appliances vs. Snoring Mouthguards

Custom Oral Appliances

  • Prepared by a dentist or sleep physician
  • A dental lab creates a custom impression of your teeth
  • Constructed from clear, arcylic aligners that resemble Invisalign®
  • Expected to last 24 months, depending on the device and severity of bruxism
  • Expensive: Costs $500-$5,000

Snoring Mouthguards

  • Prepared by yourself in the comfort of your own home
  • The ‘boil and bite’ process creates a custom impression of your teeth
  • Constructed from soft, copolymer material
  • Expected to last 6-15 months, depending on the device and severity of bruxism
  • Affordable: Costs $40-$200

Is a Custom Oral Appliance or a Snoring Mouthguard Best for You?

Two of the most significant differences between a custom oral appliance and a snoring mouthguard is adjustability and customization. The more adjustable and personalized, the more complex and expensive the mouthpiece will be.

One of the risks of using a simple snoring device for the treatment of sleep apnea without the consult of a physician is that the device may not adequately treat all health concerns. Consequently, the user risks being under-treated. That is, There is an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, deadly heart rhythms, and accidents from daytime sleepiness in patients with untreated obstructive sleep apnea.

Because many of these devices treat a medical condition, they require FDA oversight in the United States. There is concern that many individuals that have more severe health issues, like obstructive sleep apnea, are undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, and have complications as a result of no clinician intervention. Speak with your physician and dentist about using these devices before you use them. Unless ordered in conjunction with physician care, you should not use a simple snoring device for the treatment of sleep apnea.